Medical Malpractice – Misdiagnosis

An accurate diagnosis is the beginning point where decisions are made about what treatment, if any, is to be had for particular symptoms.  Correctly identifying medical problems is what making correct diagnosis is all about.  If you incorrectly identify the problem, the chances of properly treating it are slim to none.  A misdiagnosis can create an avalanche of events, stemming from not treating the real problem and causing more problems with a treatment that is not necessary.

Misdiagnosis occurs at a much higher rate than most people believe. The chance of experiencing a misdiagnosis ranges from 8% to 40% according to several surveys conducted of patients.   According to other sources, misdiagnosis occurs at a rate of between 20% to 40% in hospital emergency rooms and ICU’s.  These statistics show that misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of medical mistakes.  In one report by the Institute of Medicine entitled “To Err is Human”, it is stated that between 44,000 – 98,000 fatalities occur every years as the result of medical error.

Three Major Categories of Misdiagnosis

  1. Misdiagnosis of a disease that is non-existent; called a false positive;
  2. Failure to diagnose a disease or condition; called a false negative;
  3. An interpretation that lacks a definitive diagnosis; called equivocal results.

The most common misdiagnosis is failure to diagnose. The most common medical malpractice lawsuits involve

  • appendicitis;
  • breast cancer;
  • colon cancer;
  • heart attacks and
  • lung cancer.

The most commonly misdiagnosed disorders, however, are not necessarily the ones resulting in the most malpractice lawsuits.  Diabetes and hypertension are very often misdiagnosed, but do not lead as quickly to severe injury as cancer or appendicitis misdiagnosis, for example.

The degree of specialization and experience may play a large part in misdiagnosis.  A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that some physicians failed to properly diagnose breast cancer while other physicians had only an error rate of 3%.

The study found that the degree of specialization and volume of experience played a major role in the ability of doctors to make accurate diagnoses.  Physicians who interpreted at least 2,500 specialized studies per year showed the lowest misdiagnosis rate.  Physicians who are more experienced are more likely to detect a cancer.  Increased sensitivity with mammography, along with the explanation to the patient for the reason for increased compression has resulted in a significantly higher detection ratio.

Unfortunately, it is not true that every doctor will double check with other physicians or specialists, consult their medical books and latest research.  Studies show that the average time spent with a patient is 15 minutes.  This gives the doctor very little time to ask questions, order tests, answer questions and make a proper diagnosis.  Often the most common conditions and diseases will naturally be at the forefront of the doctor’s mind leading them to often fail to suspect a less common disorder.  Add in stress and long hours and the human condition to err is magnified.

Studies conducted from autopsies have shown that doctors seriously misdiagnose fatal illnesses about 20% of the time.  This is significant and leads to millions of patients being treated for the wrong disease and who get no treatment for the disease they have.  Additionally amazing is the fact that this rate of misdiagnosis is the same as it was in the 1930′s.

It should be kept in mind that doctors and medical technicians such as radiologists are not paid to come up with correct diagnoses.  They are paid to make diagnoses (right or wrong), do tests, dispense drugs and perform surgery.  There is no bonus for curing a patient or discovering the correct diagnosis.  Likewise, there is no penalty for failing to diagnose correctly except when it leads to a lawsuit.  That is why lawyers who pursue malpractice claims on behalf of their clients do make every physician take notice. If it weren’t for personal injury lawyers and the remedies they seek on behalf of their clients, seeing a doctor would be even more dangerous than it is now.

One of the unfortunate effects of misdiagnosis is treatment of the wrong condition.  Ongoing treatment of a disorder the patient does not have has the potential to result in severe health issues.

Some of the most under-diagnosed medical conditions due mostly to mild symptoms are:

  • Hemochromatosis (a condition which causes your body to absorb and store too  much iron)
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Osteoporosis (weakening of the bones)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, including Chlamydia, HPV, trichomoniasis, bacterial  vaginosis or gonorrhea
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Glaucoma

A large proportion of medical malpractice cases are based on misdiagnosis and the delayed treatment due to it.  The top five conditions that are often misdiagnosed are:

  • Appendicitis;
  • Breast cancer;
  • Colon Cancer;
  • Lung Cancer and
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Most of these are due not only to misdiagnosis, but also to misread diagnostic tests, which ultimately led to delayed or non-treatment.  Medical imaging such as MRIs, CAT scans and X-rays are diagnostic tools that unfortunately, are only as good as the person reading the film.  These tools are often essentials in the detection of life threatening conditions.

Studies have shown that radiological specific studies show significant errors, with as high as a 30% rate of failure in diagnosis for disease and up to a 2% rate of cases that were really normal. These numbers have consistently been repeated throughout the past 50 years.  The conclusion is that eighty percent of errors are perceptual; the information is present on the films yet not detected by the medical specialist responsible for correctly reading the film.

The disorder of a patient whose condition has been misdiagnosed may increase to the point where correct treatment may no longer be beneficial.  They will certainly suffer from an untreated condition being allowed to progress.  They suffer from a multitude of unnecessary treatments.  They suffer financial loss from having to pay for treatment that does them no good and may actually harm them.  They suffer emotional stress when they find out how they have innocently been mislead.

Our medical malpractice legal team is available to help you answer the many questions you and your family will have if you believe you have been the victim of a medical misdiagnosis.

For your convenience, we offer home, hospital, office and nursing home visits.  Our team of professionals at The Law Offices of Adrian Crane will provide you with the experience, strategy and commitment that protect your rights and claims.

The initial medical malpractice consultation is with no obligation and is free of charge.  If we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services and reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses only if there is a monetary recovery of funds.  A notice letter and a lawsuit must be filed before the applicable expiration date, known as the statute of limitations, so please contact us right away to ensure that you do not waive your legal rights to possible compensation.

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If you or a loved one has suffered any kind of injury as a result of the negligence or recklessness of another, you owe it to yourself and your family to hire an attorney who specializes only in representing injured victims.  Contact an attorney at The Law Offices of Adrian Crane by calling or by contacting us through the case evaluation form located on this website.

At our personal injury firm, you speak directly with an attorney, not just secretaries and paralegals.  A Spanish-speaking attorney and staff members are available for your assistance. Se habla Español.

Attorneys associated with The Law Offices of Adrian Crane handle cases across the state of Texas.  Our principal office in North Texas is in Dallas however we are happy to welcome cases from anywhere in Texas, regardless of where you live or where the accident took place.

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